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DAY IN THE LIFE OF

Satish Kumar Arora, Director - Food Production, Taj SATS Air Catering Limited

From going against his parents’ wishes to pursue culinary studies to becoming the youngest Executive Chef in the world at the age of 26, Satish Arora’s journey as a Chef has been fascinating, inspiring and absorbing. Shweta Ramsay unravels day in the life of Chef Satish Arora

Monday, September 22, 2014, 11:30 Hrs  [IST]

Satish kumar aroraBorn in Jalandhar in 1947, Chef Arora did his schooling in Delhi. His father worked in the army while his mother was a school teacher. Right from a very young age, Arora was drawn towards food. His mom was a phenomenal cook and he loved to assist her in the kitchen. However,  his father, like any other father in those days, wanted his son to become a doctor or an engineer. However, Arora, a reluctant student, had other plans. He pursued diploma in catering from the IHM New Delhi in 1966 against the wishes of his father. Arora also completed a year’s specialisation course in Kitchen Planning & Production from the same institute in 1967.

“My father told me that everyone will make fun of him and would call me ‘bawarchi’ and that there is no way any father would give his daughter’s hand to me for marriage. But I knew what was right for me. I pursued studies in catering and excelled. I was offered jobs at many hotels but I wanted to work with the best hotel in the country. Thus, I joined Taj as a trainee. Four years down the line, I was appointed Executive Chef of Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, the youngest chef in the world to take over a five-star hotel kitchen. I have no doubt my dad was really proud of me,” he reminisced.

Recognitions all through
Chef Arora remained steadfast in his brand loyalty and earned positions in the hierarchy through hardwork. In 1985, he was made Chef Culinary of the Taj Group - Western & Southern Regions and five years later he was promoted as the Director Food Production. In 1973, he went to Europe to promote Goan food as Taj was opening a hotel in Goa. In 1975, he was sent to Far East to promote Indian cuisine there. In 1990, he prepared meals for Queen Elizabeth and the entire Royalty for the President of India’s banquet in London, where again in 1991, he cooked for Prince Charles’ banquet for Indian industrialists.

Fast Five
Favourite Food: Grilled Tandoori dishes
Favourite Holiday Destination: London, Kerala-Kumarakom or Kochi
Favourite Drink: Beer, Red Wine
Favourite Car: Mercedes
Favourite Actor: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra

Among his early recognitions, Chef Arora had won a gold medal in Culinary Olympics in Japan in 1987, and was declared one among the world’s 20 best chefs by a German Food Magazine in 1991. In 1994, his contribution to the culinary field was recognised through an award given by Late Padma Shri Thangam Philip. In 2005, he was named in the Hall of Fame by the Indian Federation of Culinary Association. In 2007, he received the lifetime achievement award from Curry Club India in London, a medal from Swiss Press Club, and the lifetime achievement award by Curry Club of England.

In 1983, he was in charge of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meals in Goa. He was in charge of SAARC heads of Governments Catering in Colombia in 1998, while in the following year, he was appointed as one of the eight members on Singapore Airlines Culinary Panel. He was also appointed chef to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, for two years.

Among the many dignitaries whom Chef Arora has catered to are Bill Clinton, former US President; Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England; John Major, former UK Prime Minister; Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India and the late Neil Armstrong, American astronaut.

Day Break
Chef Arora is an early riser. He is god fearing and thus starts his day with prayers. He goes for a morning walk daily.  “I live in Colaba and each morning while I take a morning walk I cross Taj, the place I worked in for over 40 years! It never fails to inspire me,” he said. He eats a simple breakfast comprising fruits and cornflakes at 8am and at 8.30am he leaves home to reach TajSATS office at 10am.

On reaching office, Chef Arora first checks his emails and has a meeting with all the chefs, over a cup of tea. At the meeting all office matters, flight schedules and other daily work is discussed. After that, for about an hour, he takes a round of all departments and kitchens.  “These rounds help me appraise myself with what is happening. It also helps me build a rapport with each and every employee.”

“At 1pm I have my lunch. My wife prepares a Dubba for me. I eat simple chapatti, sabji and raita meal. Since all day I do tasting sessions I need to take care of my health,” he commented. Post lunch Chef Arora schedules his meetings with chefs, suppliers or other people. He leaves office at 5pm and reaches home by 7pm. On reaching home, he loves to spend time with his wife and adopted daughter.

Personal Life
Arora married Sushma in 1973. It was an arranged marriage. He has a son who is a chef in Singapore and his daughter is a fashion designer in London.   “Once a year for a whole month I visit my daughter in London with my wife. I love to organise parties wherein I cook for all the guests. I also love spending time with my grandson,” he said.

In his free time, he loves watching television shows such as Comedy Nights with Kapil and Jhalak Dikhla Jaa.  Successful people from any field inspire him. When it comes to music, Chef Arora likes songs with a beat. “I love all item numbers and songs sung by Mika. It energises me!,” he mentioned. He is a staunch believer of Rahukaalam. Also, he religiously wishes people on their birthdays.

Future plans
Chef Arora plans to open a consultancy in the near future. His dream is to open a chef’s academy. He explained, “The problem today is that everyone wants work in a reputed hotel. Successful chefs are not very keen on imparting knowledge to the upcoming generation.” His advice to all budding chefs is ‘Don’t be in a hurry to make quick money. One can only succeed if you have passion and patience’.

 
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